By Amanda Michelle Steiner
Updated December 03, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: Instagram/Josh Devine

Josh Devine was just 20 years old when he was asked to be join the backing band for One Direction as a drummer as they prepared to embark on their first tour, Up All Night, back in 2011. At the time, Devine was told the tour would cross the United Kingdom, with the potential for a few U.S. dates. The rest is a whole lot of history: Of the band’s sudden, explosive popularity, Devine admits in a conversation with EW that no one could have anticipated the success that would follow One Direction’s third-place win on the U.K.’s X Factor in 2010. “I don’t think the boys themselves really knew what they were in for,” he says, adding that the “mind-blowing” reaction from their first performance on the Today show in New York City in March 2012 was when it began to sink in: “I was like, wow, what have I got myself into?”

Since announcing the band’s upcoming hiatus, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson have been fairly candid about the fact that they need some time to rest following a grueling schedule that has resulted in five albums and four tours in five years: “It really isn’t as big and dramatic as it’s been made out,” Tomlinson previously told EW, adding, “I think we deserve a little break.” And so do their backing band. “It’s a very welcomed break,” Devine says. “I’m looking forward to it. Of course, it’s all I’ve known for the last four or so years, so it’s going to be really strange to have no immediate schedule, to not get a call saying, ‘Right, we’re going to Europe,’ ‘We’re going to this,’ ‘We’re going to that.’ But it’s going to be nice to just look in the diary and see nothing. It will be lovely.” Indeed, save for a performance at an awards show in London early in his commitment to One Direction, Devine says that he’s been behind his kit for every single live show and TV appearance.

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And backing One Direction isn’t the only thing keeping the Bournemouth, England, native busy. Devine has also been working on music of his own along with Ollie Green, a fellow U.K.-based musician. The pair released Through the Fire in August, a guitar-driven six-song EP that’s a little bit grittier than your average 1D record, and Devine hopes to record a full-length album in the new year, but he’ll be taking his time: “I don’t think it’s really anything I should rush,” he says. “When the band go on a break, I think Jan. 1 will be when I sort of take a look at myself and maybe have a month just to regain my head from the last four and a half years of touring.” He cites Linkin Park, Korn, and Slipknot among his musical inspirations at the moment, and when he goes “full-steam ahead” following his short break, Devine hopes to do his “own version of that but with more of a pop twist that hopefully people can relate to.”

As the hiatus looms ever closer, see below for more from our conversation with Devine, who reveals his favorite song to perform live, the most surreal thing he’s experienced during his time with One Direction, and whether he’ll return along with the rest of the band when — and, perhaps, if — the British-Irish band comes back for more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you while you’ve been with the band?

JOSH DEVINE: When we headlined Madison Square Garden, that was a pretty big, big deal. It’s just such an iconic venue. And then Wembley Stadium in the U.K. — that’s been a dream ever since I was a kid, to play there. We got to play there three times, and it was mind-blowing. Absolutely mind-blowing.

And now 1D is too big for a New York venue. Over the summer, you performed at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Yeah! That’s such a cool venue. I remember we played [The Beacon Theater] on the very first tour that we did, and it was just … 2,000 people maybe? And it was chaos. Absolutely crazy. But it was such a cool place. I definitely want to come back, and if stuff with Ollie and I or stuff of my own really kicks off, I’d love to go and tour all those venues again because they’re just a load of fun.

Obviously there are millions of people who want One Direction to come back from hiatus. Would you be there along with the boys when and if they return?

I mean, we’ve got to see where I’m going to be at in the next however many years — or next year, I’m not sure when it’s gonna kick back in, I know it definitely will at some point — but I’d love to. I’d never say no, but it just completely depends on where I’m at in my own life and what the situation is. But yeah, I’d absolutely, 100 percent, never give up this job. I absolutely love it.

And is that the general sentiment of the rest of the band as well?

The rest of the band are a bit older than me, and Sandy [Beales, bass guitarist] just got married … I suppose if they want us back, we’d all do it, but it just depends on where we’re all at in our own personal lives, as well. But no one can turn down … I mean, it’s the offer of a lifetime to play with these boys.

Were you at all shocked when it was decided the band would take an extended break?

It wasn’t a shock so much as … I think they definitely need it. When you’ve been on the road for five years, it’s inevitable. People are going to need a break and it’s going to be nice for the boys, for them to just go ahead and live a bit more of a free life. It was going to happen at some point. Everyone knew that it wouldn’t last forever, nothing ever does, so it wasn’t so much of a shock. But it’s getting to be more and more of a shock the closer it gets! I’m thinking, like, “Damn, this is real!”

Still, it seems like every day there’s an announcement of a new TV appearance, so maybe it will never end after all.

[Laughs] I think the fans are never going to let the band die. That’s the best bit. And it’s never truly gonna end ’cause they’ll be back at some point, 100 percent. Even if it’s a matter of a year, or a couple of years, however long it’s going to be … they’ll be back as long as the fans are behind them, which I’m sure they will be. They’ve been incredible.

Speaking of the fans … approximately what percentage of your Twitter mentions are filled with conspiracy theories about the bear?

Oh, this rainbow bear thing?

Yeah! [Editor’s note: For the uninitiated, an unofficial tour mascot dubbed Rainbow Bondage Bear has been sitting at the side of the stage at nearly every show since 2014. The bear wears increasingly flashy outfits, and a vocal minority of fans have taken to assigning meaning to the bear’s outfits, insisting that someone in the band is behind the bear and using it to send coded messages to fans. It’s a thing. I swear.]

There was one point where everyone was pinning it on me and I think it’s because I got up to my drum kit and there was a picture of it there. Someone posted a picture of that and then everyone thought it was me, and I was like, “No, it’s not me at all!” [Laughs] It’s just so random. It’s one of the stage crew that dresses it up and thinks it’s funny. Everyone pins the blame on me and no matter who I tell it’s not me they just … no one seems to believe me, so I just don’t say anything anymore. They can believe what they want to believe.

They certainly will. The stage crew? So funny.

Yeah, it’s as far away from the band as possible. That’s one of the things fans like to … they do like to find hidden meaning in things and I can honestly say there is no hidden meaning or anything with those bears. I don’t think anyone really knows they exist apart from the fans.

It happens to journalists, too; certain fans will take meaning from the way a story is written and believe it’s all part of this larger conspiracy.

Yeah, I had one the other day — we were at The Ellen DeGeneres Show and in one of the cupboards there was this plastic baby doll, like one a child would have. We found it and I thought it was hilarious so I just stuck it on the table and put a picture on Snapchat and the first thing everyone did was screenshot it and say, “What is this baby and what does it mean?” Like, whoa, it’s just a baby I found! And so I thought that was funny, but you know, they’re the most passionate fan group in the world — they truly do love every aspect of things that people do, so, it just shows passion to me. I think it’s great.

Moving on, are you a fan of 1D’s music?

Yeah, more and more so as the albums have progressed. I think my favorite is still Midnight Memories. That album to me was … every single song was just awesome and so much fun to play as well. And “What a Feeling” on Made in the A.M. is magic. That is my favorite song.

What’s been your favorite song to play live?

It used to be “You & I,” just because that drop when we come in was so good. I also used to love playing “C’mon, C’mon” [from Take Me Home] back in the day, but that got dropped from the set. I think “Clouds” and “Stockholm Syndrome” were my favorite to play on the last tour.

Is “C’mon, C’mon” the song you’re most bummed got dropped from the setlist?

It was at first. The thing is we play these songs hundreds and hundreds of times, so after a while songs do start to get a bit tedious, so when certain songs are dropped we’re like, “Phew, now we can do something else.” I’m never too bummed unless it’s a song that we only played for a couple of days. We played “Spaces” for a few shows before we changed it out; I enjoyed playing that song I was like, “Aw, it’s a shame that’s gone,” but the fans always want certain songs and that always gets taken into consideration.

It’s wild that “What Makes You Beautiful” was on the setlist for so long.

That was the first-ever hit, the first song I had with the boys. Back in the U.K., that was our very first TV appearance that we ever did and it was just kind of like, “Hmm, this is a pretty catchy tune.” It’s not the first thing I would listen to personally, but you can’t deny it — you can go to any club in the world and if that song comes on, everyone will sing along.

What are you going to be doing during the hiatus other than working on your music? What do you hope to get into?

I’m kind of open. I love being in the music industry but I want to maybe try my hand at some acting or something else. I’m always up for something that’s going to challenge me, and, provided everything goes right, hopefully I’ll be living in the U.S. so I’ll be more local and you might see me doing some other stuff. Music with other people as well, maybe. We’ll see.